- Vol. 03
- Chapter 03
That cloud, she thinks, looks like a narwhal.
She had always found shapes in clouds. It had started on long car journeys. Looking up, locating a dragon in the sky and watching it as it morphed into a dog and then scattered into flurries that resembled nothing other than other clouds.
Her camera is in her hand. She switches it on, the blue light glaring in the darkening sky. Perhaps, she thinks, as she so often does in these moments, perhaps she can take a photo of it before it stops being a narwhal.
Except... and this was what always stopped her. Except, what if no one else looking at the photo could see the narwhal?
That was the thing, with clouds. She had tried to show him, once. Look, she said, pointing. Can't you see? She willed him to follow the direction of her finger, to a swirling cloud that looked like a Chinese dragon made of crinkled paper. But either he had been looking at the wrong cloud, or the wind had whipped up up there and changed the shape, or he hadn't been looking, not really looking; or perhaps he simply couldn't see.
What dragon? he said. I can't see any dragon.
The thing with clouds was that no one could see what she saw. It had become a hassle, in the end, to keep pointing out each shape. So the clouds became her secret; her own way of looking. Her own way of seeing.
She had once toyed with the idea of writing them down. A log of the clouds she had seen, a photo attached to each one. Maybe even a Tumblr. M4 between Junction 13 and 14: butterfly. Windermere, October 23rd: daffodil. The M5 M6 roundabout: a mouse, or maybe a shrew.
She hadn't, in the end. It would be too much like trying to show him, that day.
She remembered the clouds though. Dogs and dragons were her most popular sightings. Dogs with square jaws; dragons with menacing, curving smiles.
Never a narwhal before. It really did look like a narwhal.
No one knows why narwhals have their horn. It's one of nature's great mysteries; proof that not everything can be explained, just like she couldn't explain the shapes she saw in clouds.
She puts the camera down. Because, and this had been her fear when he refused to see her dragon, her fear about writing the log, her fear about pointing and saying: look!
Because it was one thing for him not to see. But what if she recorded her clouds and then looked back only to find nothing there? What if when the camera screen reflected the photo back at her, she no longer saw a narwhal and instead saw only clouds?
Better to remember it as it was. The beach, summer evening: a narwhal.
The sky shifted again. The narwhal's horn dissolved. The ship's light flashed and behind her, a boy dived from the jetty into the sea.